Most people become eligible for Medicare during the months around their 65th birthday, which is known as “aging in” to Medicare.
But there are circumstances where you can become eligible earlier. And depending on when you become eligible, there are several different timelines, or enrollment periods, for when you can actually sign up for Medicare.
It’s important to know when your particular enrollment period is, because if you don’t sign up on time, you could be charged a penalty in the form of higher premiums for as long as you have Medicare.
Here are some important points to keep in mind regarding when to enroll in Medicare: The Initial Enrollment Period is the first time you can sign up for Medicare. During your Initial Enrollment Period you may join Medicare Parts A, B and D, and you can research Medicare supplement and Medicare Advantage plans to decide if one of those plans may be right for you.
If you first become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, the Initial Enrollment Period is the seven-month window that begins three calendar months before your birthday month and ends three months after your birthday month.
Example: If your birthday is in July, your Initial Enrollment Period begins April 1 and ends October 31.
Your coverage will start no sooner than your birthday month, unless your birthday is on the first day of the month, in which case your coverage will start on the first day of the prior month. For example, if your birthday is April 1, your coverage would start on March 1.
If you’re still working and have employer-provided coverage, then technically you don’t need to enroll in Medicare at this time. But you will need to enroll in Medicare within eight months of the date you no longer have that coverage in order to avoid penalties.
While you may have health coverage when you turn 65, it’s widely recommended and common practice to enroll in Medicare Part A at that time. Typically, it won’t cost you anything, and Medicare will become your secondary insurance and may possibly cover costs your primary insurance doesn’t cover.
It’s important to understand that there are several possible enrollment periods for Medicare, depending on your specific circumstances. These articles provide more information on when you’re eligible for Medicare, when to enroll, and which programs are right for you.